Be a Leader, Not a Follower

When I was growing up, my dad would share with me words of wisdom, in which he called “golden nuggets.” I never knew when I was going to receive a “nugget.” In junior high, I was severely bullied. When I came home from school, I would share with my parents what occurred and how the bullies would treat me. I didn’t understand why I was being bullied because I was a straight “A” student, involved in sports, and participated in extra-curricular activities. This goes to show, anyone can be bullied. A “nugget” that my dad would share with me during that trialing time: “Be a leader, not a follower; if you have to follow, follow a leader.”

I chose to set myself apart from the crowd at school. I didn’t submit to the bullies authority, rather I chose to take the high road; unfortunately, I was still targeted. There were moments in life where I didn’t understand why my friends were going down another path or why I was treated rudely; but, my dad would always remind me, “Ashley, be a leader not a follower; if you have to follow, follow a leader.” The words my dad shared with me, I strive to live that out on a daily basis. Being a leader can be lonely on top because that is a road less traveled on. We see in today’s society how leadership and leading by example (standing out from the crowd) is severely lacking. It is time for us to change that culture trend!

Two questions I want to ask:
1. How are you leading?
2. Who are you following?

How are you leading?
This might sound like a tough question to answer, but take a moment to think about it. What are you doing in your everyday life to lead and help people? What are you doing to set yourself apart from the crowd? In high school, I applied the same principle in my life. I was involved in reaching out to the community and participated in leadership events. I was not one who followed the crowd of my peers or attended their parties where underage drinking occurred and police were called. I set standards for myself. In college, I kept the bar high and chose to lead by example. I wanted my actions to speak louder than my words because someone was always watching. Whether you know this or not, someone is always watching your behavior, actions, how you handle situations, etc. There could be young children and young adults in your life watching how you are behaving. Eventually, they may mimic what you do. This is a problem we see in Hollywood and sports…people are placed on a platform and some actors/athletes/popstars don’t care there are young people looking up to them. I want to challenge you to go the extra mile and take the high road. Set goals and standards for yourself. Be a role model that young people can truly look up to.

In May of 2013, I attended NEW (National Education for Women) Leadership Institute held by the University of Oklahoma. 30 young women and I traveled to the State Capitol where we met with female politicians. It was such an incredible experience getting to hear how these women fought their way to being Oklahoma Congresswomen and Senators. One congresswoman shared with us the tough battle she endured to get elected. As she was sharing her story, she gave each of us a rubber band. Toward the end of her story, she told us that she was stretched greatly beyond her comfort zone but God did not give her more than she could handle. The rubber band was used to illustrate that sometimes in life we have to stretch ourselves, and a great way to stretch ourselves is by going the extra mile. She told us that the “extra mile is not crowded because it is the road less traveled on.”

Don’t get caught in a traffic jam on the highway of mediocrity…go the extra mile!

Who are you following?
One time I heard that the top 5 people you surround yourself with, you become just like them. Who do you surround yourself with? Do you surround yourself with people who are positive, visionary, a leader, and goes the extra mile? Or…do you surround yourself with people who are negative, lazy, complainers, and have no goals? I encourage you to evaluate who you are following. The crowd you hang out with can either lead you down a good path or a wrong one. Romans 12:2 says “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind so that you may know the perfect, good, and acceptable will of God.” If your friends are following the world and participating in events in which you know is not good…then why follow them? Stand out from the crowd.

If there is no one personally in your life who you can follow or look up to…look for a leader or mentor. Growing up, I looked up to four people: my dad, my mom, my grandpa, and Michael Jordan. Even though I don’t know Michael Jordan personally, I admired his focus and determination to be one of the greatest NBA stars of all time. My dad had a poster of Jordan that said “Success Comes From Failure.” On the poster it shared his story how numerous times he was given the game winning shot, and even though there were times he missed…he learned from it and practiced harder. He learned from his failures and that is what made him successful. I also looked up to my grandpa because any issue I had, he would always direct me to the Bible. He would say, “Ashton, the Bible says…” I admired him for pointing me back to the Word and seeing what God says about the situation.

You may be wondering what steps you can take to set yourself apart. Well, if you are a student in school, you can set yourself apart by:

  • turning in your assignments on time
  • respecting the teacher
  • standing up for bullied victims
  • watching your words
  • edify others
  • hold the door open for others
  • ask the teacher what you can do to help
  • being honest with the coaches
  • maintaining sports etiquette on and off the field
  • respect your parents
  • showing up to class on time
  • help your friends reach their goals
  • hold Bible studies.

If you are in college or young professional, you can set yourself apart by:

  • showing respect toward those in authority
  • being honest
  • being a man/woman of character
  • turning in assignments on time
  • asking professors/boss what you can do to help even though the work has been completed
  • showing up to class/job 5 minutes early
  • show up to interviews 5 minutes early
  • push your chair in after you get up (tip: sometimes future employers look to see if you push in your chair-shows them you pay attention to detail!)
  • dress modestly
  • help others achieve their goals
  • Work hard
  • Set standards/goals for yourself

Remember, “Be a leader not a follower; if you have to follow, follow a leader.”

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